Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Seems so long since I've heard the sound / it's been so long

I really liked the Pet Sounds story in the (I think) December issue of Mojo magazine. Mojo is like a warm cuddly blanket for me at times. It has lots of rather well written stories about artists that I used to like a lot (and many I didn’t, and for that matter, some I still do) and usually does little more than refresh things in my mind that I’ve already read before over the years. I truly believe there is nothing more of any real interest to me that can really be said about (or by, in some cases) The Beatles, or indeed Jimi Hendrix, or, you might think, The Beach Boys.

Its contemporary coverage bores the hell out of me. Like it’s classic coverage is overwhelmingly white rockist (and those black artists it covers are the “acceptable” variety like Aretha…it’s as if hip hop exists in a parallel universe and the musical revolutions of the last twenty years didn’t happen). The sort of comfortable, vaguely rootsy acts that it praises, without exception I think, put me to sleep. I still like to be challenged by a new record and I certainly don’t get that from the likes of The Magic Numbers or Rufus Wainwright, who, to be honest, I find tedious. They’re just not me….each to their own…..but I have trouble convincing myself that the successor to this magazine will be featuring someone like that in 2027. Chances are of course, I’m wrong, and it might be that generation gap hiking up on me again. But I don’t think so…the kids don’t want to hear a bunch of acts that sedate older folks like because they sound like something they might’ve liked 25 years ago…without any noticeable edge.

But the Beach Boys story was, to use a comfortable word, nice. I’d read most of what was revealed in it a dozen times or more (my favourite Brian Wilson story still remains the one Nick Kent, perhaps Britain’s greatest music writer, included in his collection, The Dark Stuff), and the story of the album, its recording and its aftermath, is now the stuff of rock’n’roll folk law, but it was pleasantly put with the odd rather quirky quote. I liked it a lot. What I especially related to was the contemporary-ness of Brian, with Al Jardine, the only other remaining Beach Boy worth thinking about (I was thinking the other day I’d not heard Mike Love’s name used without the adjective odious preceding it for some years now), performing Pet Sounds live for the last time.

The very last time, or at least that’s the story, but, as we know, with all things rock’n’roll, never say never.

I love Brian Wilson. I’ve never met him, but was within a breath of doing so a few years back. A friend, a mutual Wilson fanatic had the man banging on his door wanting to come in…but was out. He said he’d have called me on the quiet to drop by……that’s sadly beside the point though, although I’ve thought about it often....you would wouldn't you....

But, listen to the pounding beat (very Wrecking Crew) sliding into and under the vocal ahhhs of Don’t Worry Baby’s opening moments; or the layered harmonies of ‘till I Die, which float on top of, and drift away from each other like a soft swell, and if you can honestly tell me that this man wasn’t sent by some higher force to create…its almost enough to give an old cynic some religion.

What really moved me in Mojo was the photograph of Brian (which I can't find online so the above will suffice), and the thought of this grand old man (who really isn’t that old of course, I’m talking in white rock terms), a survivor, who in all reason should not have survived, playing his grand opus one more time before he leaves it forever. And I started thinking about the passing of a guard. Two really…..the icons of the sixties are slowly beginning to shuffle away, if not passing on, at least winding down their activities or at least finding themselves in a place when such is being reasonably considered. And the rock icons of the seventies, the young revolutionaries, are not passing as such (although we lost Joe), but, unlike the sixties icons, becoming less and less relevant to the modern world. The seventies heroes never really fulfilled their potential, and, perhaps the exception of Elvis Costello & Paul Weller, nobody else from that era really managed to extend their sell by date. I mean, look at Robert Smith or Siouxsie Sioux, both adequately described as parodies of themselves twenty five years on. Sad but true.

And just to clarify before someone screams Kraftwerk or Al Green at me, I’m talking guitar, bass, drum, rock’n’roll.

For those of my generation it’s a strange place to be. I’ve lived with names like Jagger, Dylan, Townshend, Page, Wonder and McCartney all my life. That’s not to say I’ve liked everything they done, not at all, quite the opposite in fact. And, I’d be glad if all of the above didn’t make another record (with the exception McCartney who redeemed himself totally with his last album), or at least one I didn’t have to hear. The same goes for David Bowie, once one of my heroes…still actually…but I’d be happier if there wasn’t yet another hailed-as-returning-to-form album…its been twenty six years since Scary Monsters, his last longplayer to get excited about. To be honest there is virtually nothing from any of the above I’ve liked since about 1980. But the point is, they still held their iconic status largely intact…and the fact that there are few heirs to that status might have a little bit to do with collapsing CD sales.

So no, its not about the fact that these people will not, for much longer, be making records, I guess its more about me, and what the passing off the scene of these, still in my mind, youth icons actually means to me, and my life. The Wilson story as much as anything was a whoa moment for me…

And I suppose it’s also a great deal of disbelief as to how long these people have retained some sort of relevance. The Beatles wiped just about every icon out of the public consciousness in 64, but, and a it’s a measure of how little the punk icons I mentioned earlier actually achieved, the big bang of 76 was barely noticed by the sixties rock giants.

I don’t really know what this post has to do with anything…it just hit me….I think I’m rambling…

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